US Sailing has gone a bandwidth too far

Published on March 14th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The US Sailing National Championships have a long history of bringing together its constituents to vie for titles in a wide variety of formats, and as the sport has evolved over the years, so have these events.

The US Sailing calendar culminates with the Championship of Champions, an invitation-only event which brings together the gamut of one design class champions for a competition in one type of boat to see who is the best of the best.

I am three-time competitor, one-time winner, and full-time enthusiast of this event. Class champions don’t often meet, and while these winners all want to win, the event has a good vibe. Borrowed boats can do that, but there is a level of mutual respect not often found.

However, I was frustrated with US Sailing allowing skippers to hire pro crew to help their chances. I believed US Sailing should be promoting the Corinthian spirit of competition, plus it introduced a new and costly variable.

While the organization agreed with my position, now mandating that no skipper or crew may be paid to sail in this event, I am struggling with their decision to have the 2023 event sailed in Radio Controlled DragonFlite 95s.

While I should be thankful the choice wasn’t e-sailing, and certainly no disrespect to the RC racing world, but could there be a platform that is less related to one design racing in the USA? Is this how US Sailing intends to save sailing?

Jack Brown, noted judge, regatta organizer, and US Sailing booster for whom the event trophy is named, deserves better than to have the winner be the best at joysticking a 3-foot toy from some perch on land. Shouldn’t this esteemed championship be a test of sailing skills from inside a boat?

The American Model Yachting Association hosted its inaugural Champion of Champions Regatta in 2022, also using the DragonFlite 95s. Brilliant idea, as it gathered like-minded people to enjoy the type of event that US Sailing fostered since 1976. But it should stop there.

I do understand the popularity this $500 kit boat has had on mainstream sailing, though for it to be used to deliver the highest quality regatta for one design class champions that actually cross finish lines is a bandwidth too far.

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